The motion seeking withdrawal of the executive decision allowing FDI in multi-brand retail, moved by the leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj, was defeated by a margin of 35 votes. Of the total 471 votes cast, the UPA managed 253 votes against the 218 of the opposition that included the BJP, Left, BJD and TRS.
A second vote on a FEMA amendment notification moved by Trinamool MP Saugata Roy was also defeated with the government getting 254 votes against 224 by the opposition.
However, the tougher task before the government now is the debate beginning in the Rajya Sabha Thursday. The numbers are not clearly in favour of the UPA in the upper house even if the SP and BSP abstain.
The division in the Lok Sabha was along expected lines, as demonstrated by the tenor of the debate over the last two days in which both sides tore into each other’s arguments for and against FDI in multi-brand retail. Even the positions of the SP and BSP did not come as a surprise, given that there had been enough indications with government managers aggressively wooing them. SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP leader Dara Singh had strongly attacked the FDI decision but when it came to voting, the two parties walked out of the house.
Replying to the debate, Commerce minister Anand Sharma rebutted the opposition contention that the government had failed to build a consensus among all stakeholders that included political parties and state governments on the subject.
In a point by point rebuttal, Sharma listed out letters that were written to political parties as well as the number of meetings held at the official level by the government with farmers’ organisations and others. He said 11 state governments out of 21 had strongly endorsed allowing FDI in multi-brand retail, which had caused the government to push the decision.
Contesting the victory of the government, Swaraj interpreted the debate as a clear indication that the “sense of the house” was against FDI in multi-brand retail. She said that of the 18 parties that participated in the debate, only four - Congress, NCP, RJD and RLD - spoke in favour while 14 parties were strongly opposed. “If you go by the numbers then these 14 parties represent 282 members, who were clearly against FDI in retail” she told the house in her reply.
Earlier, during the debate, the Left parties warned of more protests if the policy was implemented.
“The prime minister, as the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha earlier, had written a letter opposing it. Congress leader P R Dasmunsi had termed it ‘anti-national’ in this very house. We have been consistent, you are not,” senior CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia said.
Quoting what he said were American studies against Walmart and other such retail chains, the CPI(M) leader said there would be wide variations in what the farmers would get for their produce and the price it is sold to the customer “as has happened in several countries including the US”.
“We will take this battle to the streets. Wherever you try to implement this plan, we will protest. We will not allow Walmart to come in,” Acharia said.
Attacking the Samajwadi Party, the DMK and the Bahujan Samaj Party for bailing out the government, NDA convener and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said SP, BSP and DMK were with them during the nationwide protest against FDI and that 85 per cent of the people would be adversely affected by the move.
“Sit over it again, have more consultations and roll back the measure. If you do not roll back, then we will roll back your government...You can win this battle but not the war,” Yadav said.
The Biju Janata Dal said it had opposed the move in 2004, again last December and remained opposed to it even today.